If you need experience that will help you in your future career, spending time abroad may be the ticket. Here’s what you need to know.
How will you gain the most valuable experience for your future career? It’s a difficult decision to make. Everyone throws out advice about which university has the best credentials or what your perfect first job is, but what if you want a different kind of challenge?
Today, instead of “graduate high school, go to college, go directly into a career,” many students’ and young professionals’ paths look more like “high school, year abroad, college, work” or “high school, college, year abroad, work.”
Some might want to get the wanderlust out of their system before settling down, but others go abroad to gain work experience immersed in another culture, honing their . For others, the global financial crisis made finding work at home difficult, so they set their sights overseas.
No matter where you are on your professional journey, living or working abroad can help jump-start your career in a number of ways:
Gain international experience
Many employers nowadays want to hire people with international experience to give them an edge in the global marketplace. Dan Black, director of recruiting at Ernst & Young, says the company who have international experience on their resume.
Make connections overseas
When you live abroad for an extended period of time, you quickly develop a network of connections through work, travel, and chance encounters. makes it easy to keep track of your new circle of friends, and a quick post can help you find accommodations, a ride to the airport or other opportunities the next time you travel.
Live the dream
A lot of people go abroad on a temporary work visa so they can get a taste of their dream destination if permanent relocation isn’t an option. But after working there for a while, you may find your employer is willing to sponsor a long-term visa, which paves the way for full residency.
An extended trip abroad can give you a number of advantages that’ll help you be successful when (and if) you return home:
- Maturity. Living abroad and having to fend for yourself in a country of strangers forces you to mature quickly, which is something employers value in young professionals.
- Language proficiency. Living abroad is a great chance to become fluent in a language you’ve already studied — or even pick up a new one. Being bilingual or trilingual automatically makes you more attractive to employers.
- Independence. Living abroad teaches you self-reliance. You don’t have family or your usual group of friends to lean on, so you learn to on your own.
What to consider when planning your working holiday
When planning your extended trip abroad, you’ll need to keep a few logistics in mind:
- Visas. Find out what you need to do to get a work visa. Some countries are fairly flexible, while others are extremely strict. Australia, for instance, only permits six months per employer on its working holiday visa program.
- Funds. A lot of people think all they need is a one-way ticket for their trip abroad. In reality, many visa programs require return fare, travel insurance and minimum savings for approval. You’re also going to need money to live on while you secure a job or wait for your first paycheck.
- Cost of living vs. actual wages. Wages don’t always match the cost of living abroad. London, for example, has relatively low wages, but an extremely high cost of living. Don’t make the mistake of assuming the city you move to will be the same as where you are now.
- Working-holiday firms. Consider using a working-holiday or gap-year company to help you address your needs and options. These organizations can help with the visa application and setup, and they can sometimes provide job opportunities before or when you arrive.
If you’re looking to jump-start your career, don’t think you’re limited to finding a cozy cubicle somewhere with your name on it. Consider taking an extended trip overseas to differentiate yourself from other professionals and gain new skills. ( to tweet this advice.)
Even if you don’t come back as The Most Interesting Person in the World, you can still meet new people and have the adventure of a lifetime.
Jürgen Himmelmann is the director and co-founder of, a one-stop shop for travelers seeking fulfilling and meaningful long-term experiences abroad. The Global Work & Travel Co. is one of the world’s fastest-growing youth travel brands and has offices in Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia, Vancouver, and London. The company sells to Australian, New Zealand, European, Canadian, and U.S. markets and employs more than 80 people globally.